Jonie McIntire

Jonie McIntire

Poet, Writer, Activist

April 5, 2016


Tell us a little bit about some of your past projects:

I came to Toledo to finish my undergraduate degree at the University of Toledo, met my husband in one of Joel Lipman’s classes, and have stayed the 20 years since. Back in the college years, we had a group of poets who got together every week for meals and poetry, tearing each other’s poems to bits and building each other up and eating cheese on crackers with wine. We met at my friend Lori’s house on Almeda Street, and called ourselves the Almeda Street Poetry Co-op, or something like that. Those friends have stuck - Kerry Jensen Trautman, Michael Kocinski, Michael Hackney. Lori moved away, but we love her from afar. We lost John Swaile some years back.

From that group, and our involvement in the readings at Sam & Andy’s (in the space that Manhattan’s occupies now), projects grew and stayed. When Back to Jack, an annual Jack Kerouac readers’ theater, stopped being performed by the original performers, we committed to continuing the tradition. But we made changes, we made it something honoring Jack but reflecting us as well. That performance occurs every October. We also wanted to combine non-profit work with the community of poets and artists, so we started Toledo Poetry Museum. This is still a project in construction, but it exists on Facebook as a way to keep people in touch with poetry events in the Toledo area. And with the tireless help of Trina Stolec, we also helped with the project, which aggregates poetry events and information to give poets a centralized site to consult for everything poetry in Northwest Ohio.

But work in the community continues to be important to me. When I learned of a movement called One Hundred Thousand Poets for Change, I definitely wanted Toledo to be a part of this global day of poetry and social change. Our first event was over five years ago, a poetry reading in the then-newly renovated black box theater at the University of Toledo, with poets aged 8 to 70 reading their original works to an audience from all parts of Ohio. The next couple of years, we had our readings, including over 30 poets, at the Collingwood Arts Center. And for the fourth year, we had nearly 40 poets and writers perform for an audience of nearly 100 on the green space in front of the West Toledo library. We were out there for nearly 5 hours on a beautiful day, and drew the attention of people driving by and even some people in the neighborhood, who were excited about outdoor events they could walk to.

That event in particular was the first of another group I am intensely proud of, the Sylvania Avenue Neighbors. SAN is a place-based 501c3 that seeks to improve walkability, arts and business in the Five Points neighborhood. This is the neighborhood I’ve lived in for most of my life in Toledo. This blue-collar, single-family home, factory-worker neighborhood that has everything. And it really took a hit in the past ten years. But it has the bones to be everything you want in a neighborhood. Solidly-built homes. An amazing mix of neighbors who come from every walk of life. Artists and motorcycle enthusiasts, gardeners and librarians, firefighters and truck drivers, nurses and musicians. Real storefronts for eclectic businesses. With Sylvania Avenue Neighbors, and the unending patience of Greg Lyons, SAN president, we have created public events like free family movie nights, public poetry readings, a plant swap, and community forums to discuss how to make our neighborhood live up to its potential.

What are you currently working on?:

Currently, I am the Treasurer of Sylvania Avenue Neighbors, and very committed to helping the neighborhood expand its access to arts. My husband, the big-hearted Adrian Lime, and I have been working with Glass City Roasters, the newest coffee shop in our little section of West Toledo, to provide a space for artists to show and sell their art. We have artists’ studio space above the coffee shop and are working with Toledo Free School to host their main office space and some space for their workshops. We host a weekly writing group and are very proud to be one of the first locations to offer the local publication Khroma for sale.

In addition, I am the Poetry Editor for Toledo Streets Newspaper and on its board of directors. While I have been Poetry Editor for over a year, the position on the board is new. And having the opportunity to be a part of this good work is intensely important to me. Many of my poetry friends have been in and out of homelessness, spending time in shelters or living in their cars, and I have seen how interwoven creative minds and financial insecurity can be. Toledo wants workers and it has taken the tireless efforts of the Arts Commission, the Library system, the Art Museum and artistic individuals to create opportunities and stability for creative individuals. And to be a part of a newspaper that not only helps to provide access to social programs and advocates for those who are on the verge of or in a position of homelessness, but also gives them a forum to learn about journalism and the business of writing... well, it fits so perfectly and I have seen the incredible impact on our vendors. And to be honest, a wonderful man, Gregory Peters, was one of the first vendors I met. And losing him makes me want to carry forward the generous spirit he shared so easily. His impact on Toledo should not die with his death but live on in the willingness of all of us to help each other at our weakest moments.

Living in Toledo is an advantage for your work because:

Living in Toledo has been an advantage to every aspect of my life. I am endlessly thankful to have been able to work for HCR Manorcare for 16 years, and for the leadership there who have weathered economic storms. One of the central themes there is the Circle of Care, a servant-leadership philosophy of seeing your co-worker as your customer and taking ownership of problems to seek solutions proactively. Because Toledo has the feel of a small town with the opportunities of a city, I have been able to work with leadership at work to increase the number of public service opportunities for our employees, creating monthly lunch and learns where our employees learn about area non-profits and creating monthly (or sometimes bi-monthly) volunteer opportunities so our employees can engage and interact with these agencies in a way that gets them connected to the city around them.

As a writer, Toledo is an advantage because of the incredible diversity of people. I love going to open mics, like the ones at the Trunk on Friday nights on Pearl Street, or the Toledo Lucas County Public Library’s Poetry Speaks series. The mix of writing styles, the motley crew of readers, I love it! And there’s talent here. So you can write and not worry about being challenged, if you choose. But if you want to get better, you have stiff competition. And there are poets here who devote themselves to their craft, who are serious about the work, so better step your game up if you intend to earn their respect.

One of your greatest successes :

Listen, I’m over 40 and a magical thing seems to happen when you reach 40; you learn to let go of useless efforts. Greatest success so far is being alive and having a loving family and some friends who seem to genuinely enjoy me. There are specific things I’m proud of; getting up the gumption to send out a manuscript and having my first chapbook published by Finishing Line Press, being editor of Toledo Streets’ poetry anthology Glass Streets, having Mikki Williams call me ‘an activist’. But when it comes down to it, there is no success I cannot share. Work successes occurred because I work with good and very intelligent people. Poetry successes occurred because of the incredible leadership that exists in Toledo and the always-changing poetry community. And personal successes, the feeling of being another day older and happy for the opportunity, are shared with my very good friends and neighbors. And more than anything, my family. My mother, who always pushed me to write and be strong. My father, who always listened. My mother-in-law, who is always understanding and supportive. My children, who are so much more than I ever could have expected. And my husband, who will forever be the one thing I was always sure of.

What inspires you?:

Everything. People mostly, but all of them at different times. I am the worst kind of psychologist. I dissect everyone’s psyche. Broken is good, it’s honest. But there has to be ethic. It’s that black-eyed susan growing in the sidewalk cracks that inspires me most. The glitter of broken glass on a sidewalk when the streetlight turns on. The recognition that life is hard and confusing, but finding beauty and laughter in all of it.

About your background:

Born in Pittsburgh, moved to Dover, Delaware for a few years, then back to Pittsburgh. In Milwaukee by age 7. In Dublin, Ohio by age 9. In Marion, Ohio by age 13 until I graduated from high school there. I like hand-me-down clothes best because that’s what I grew up in. My mother always worked, sometimes two jobs. My father always studied and worked. I spent summers at my grandparents’ house in Pittsburgh. My aunt Casey is only 5 years older than me, so she was like my older sister as I grew up. I have always grown up in communities not built on obligation, but on honesty. The family that stays together does so with real love, the friends who stay in touch do so through everything.

A favorite quote you try to live by?

“No matter where you go, there you are.” For two reasons: 1) don’t pretend who you are, find it, face it and be it; and 2), I love Buckaroo Bonzai.

What's your favorite local culture in Toledo?

I don’t really know. I work in IT and that’s a whole subculture there and those guys are incredible. I am by far the dumbest person in the room most of the time. And I love it. But then you have the chefs. Toledo is lousy with great food. And the farm to table movement is glorious. So you cross over into the urban farming culture. And are you kidding me? Toledo is where it is at! But then there’s the murals, and the artists. And that culture has everything here - pick a style, we got it. And these are just people. Factory workers, waitresses, shop owners, part-time artisans. And then the writers. There are so many. and most of them are quiet. Most of them work and have kids or take care of parents or ailing spouses, and they hardly write but the mind thinks in stanzas and they are rich in speech and wonderful to know. And the activists and politicians - there’s a thin line between these two groups and they are both passionate.

Toledo’s ‘best-kept secret’ is…

Everything about Toledo.

Your favorite place to chill locally is…

If I’m in my neighborhood, My House Diner or White Tower are 24-hour and delicious. The Four Horsemen always has a good beer or two on-tap and their fries are killer. Glass City Roasters have Chai of the Tiger and amazing artwork.

But if I’m at work, I head over to the downtown library where they have every-stinking-thing available. Pam’s Corner has the veggie burgers and sweet potato fries I love. Sinners and Saints have the cinnamon rolls that make you think you’ve found god. Black Cloister has the most delicious beer and the Attic on Adams has all of my favorite people. And I swear I should just hand my paycheck right over to Kyoto Ka because avocado bomb and yasai roll, are you kidding me?! And if I just need to remind myself that art is always available, I wander down to Art Supply Depo and bug Jules. It’s like therapy and I don’t think she knows how much it lifts my spirits just to have that store around.

Favorite natural space in Toledo:

I love this question. 1. Backyard or front yard gardens. 2. The metroparks - so many parks and they have trails and deer and people with dogs. 3. My own neighborhood. We have Liberty Park just a few blocks away and Willys Park just another block or so from that. And they link to the cemetery, which, as it turns out, might be my favorite place of all.

When not working hard, you can be found…
Netflix - 16 seasons of Midsummer, god-only-knows how many of Poirot, anything Marvel or documentary - and every BBC comedy ever. I ain’t no quitter. Saturday mornings at Glass City Cafe listening to Old State Line. Or sand volleyball during the summer three nights a week. I should be good by now. I excuse myself because it’s a bar league, but I think I’m just getting better at not spilling beer.

If you could change the current landscape for creative progressive people in Toledo…

Build off of the community we have - use the existing structures to make art something that people interact with daily. I think the murals around Toledo have done a lot to increase visibility of arts. The Arts Commission projects like Artomatic and Art Walks have gotten people downtown and milling about who might not otherwise have ventured out. Let's expand on that. Include more neighborhoods. Include more arts like dance, music and literary arts. With my children, I decided early on that I wanted them to grow up around artists. That they knew that adults work and pay bills, but they never stop playing and creating. So we brought them with us, to readings and volunteer events. I want everyone to feel that freedom. To try new things and get good at them without making income a focus.

Part of achieving this is to bring out the artist in everyone. And another part is to show who the pros are and make them legitimate. Which means paying them, giving them forums to get better, bring professionals from around the world. The Library system has done a great job with this by bringing in many kinds of literary artists.

When we lost the artists in residence programs at Collingwood Arts Center, we lost something that will help Toledo grow as a destination for arts. And I understand why it had to end at that location, but we need to make ourselves the city fine artists want to have the honor of visiting. To do that, we need to have writing workshops and programs that produce that caliber of artist. And giving artists an economic sabbatical to focus on their craft can get us closer to this reality. Creating an annual writing conference is another idea that I think this city needs to make itself an artistic destination. So many writers here travel to Bowling Green for Winter Wheat, but this is run by the Master's students at BG. We are city with a lot of talent and resources and there is no reason we cannot have our own writers conference hosted by professionals.

One person (living or deceased) you’d like to collaborate with:
Adrian Lime. But he already knows.

An album, book or website you can’t live without:
Album - Traffic from Paradise by Rickie Lee Jones.
Book - The Moon is Always Female; Stone, Paper, Knife; and What are Big Girls Made Of by Marge Piercy. And Transformations by Anne Sexton. Website - Words with Friends. Wait, that’s an app. Then Facebook I guess.

Three words that best describe you and/or your work:
Good fucking luck.

Your 5 ‘desert island’ album picks:
Let’s say Pandora stations instead:
Colin Hay
Carolina Chocolate Drops
Missy Elliott
Rickie Lee Jones
Levon Helm

Biggest vice is…

I do loves my dark beer. The porter the better.

I’d like to see _______ in Toledo.

Writers' retreats, in-residence programs, and/or serious writers' conference. Along with a critical publisher/journal (there are publications going on so we either need to elevate those to find wider than Toledo reach or establish a publication that accomplished writers clamor to be a part of.)

The last dream you recall:

Not good. Winter takes its toll on me. I don’t remember many dreams often but when I do it’s usually because I killed someone in them or something really hideous happened in it. Seems like I wait until sleep to see the things I’m afraid to see when I’m awake.

I want my last meal to be:
With Adrian and Cochese and Kerry and our families.



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